Discovering a new species is an exciting prospect, but with the case of the African golden wolf things are a little different. Until a compelling new study was released in the journal Current Biology, it was thought that these newly discovered canines were African golden jackals.
The leader of the research, Klaus-Peter Koepfi of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Robert Wayne of the University of California said that “this represents the first ‘new’ canid species in Africa in over 150 years.” Koepfi and his colleagues carried out the research by examining the DNA of golden jackals from Kenya and other parts of Africa and gradually a new evolutionary story began to emerge.
The end result was that the golden jackals and golden wolves developed into split lineages around 1.9 million years ago. African golden wolves branched off from grey wolves and coyotes around 1.3 million years ago. The research suggests there’s been confusion for so long because both species have acted so similarly, with matching body size, fur, tooth and skull shape.
This discovery enriches the biodiversity of canines and proves that new findings can come from the most unlikely sources. The African golden wolf is a beautiful animal and serves as hope that the resilience of wolves is still very much alive.